Friday, February 17, 2012

Review: Alcatraz "Paxton Petty"

Non Spoiler Review:
The criminal this week is a mad Korean War vet carrying a grudge that leads him to blow up people with land mines. The flashbacks to 1960 focus more on Lucy's role at Alcatraz, while Hauser's feelings for her provide the drive to capture Paxton in the present.

Another okay one, but Alcatraz has settled into an annoying and predictable routine. Rebecca's character has gotten better, and even Hauser (through his younger version) showed some emotion this time. But the present day stuff needs to be equally as strong as the flashbacks, and that still isn't the case.

Spoilers Now!
In 1960, the warden and Lucy greet the arrival of Paxton Petty. As he's led away, a young officer named Hauser seems infatuated with her. She gets his name and offers him a peppermint. In the present, he looks in on her at the hospital where she has seen no improvement, and there's suggestion that she might not ever recover.

Bombs blow up in a park killing several people, and state the obvious Diego declares it's Paxton Petty. He was a combat engineer in Korea who set land mines back in the States and was sent to Alcatraz. Rebecca spies him in the crowd and takes off running. He throws a mine at her and she's forced to take cover. 

They wonder who is supplying him with bombs, and Diego muses someone in the present might be helping these people (as with Cobb's rifle). The shrapnel from the mine is old, but Paxton is adding something to the mix so Rebecca takes some photos to analyze. It turns out to be a military medal, though he was never awarded one in Korea (despite feeling he deserved one). Considering he would need to rob a military grave to get one, they track him to a graveyard where he used to work and stored his gear.

In the flashback, Beauregard attempts to glean the location of Petty's unexploded bombs. Lucy tries her own methods to get the information by going through his past as a soldier—laying minds to kill women and children in Korea. She uses electroshock treatment and he begins to sing a song she later plays for Tommy Madsen. He wants to know why he spends so much time in the infirmary. If she wants to know what the song is, then he tells her to find out why he's in there all the time. As it turns out, it's a Korean lullaby used by the enemy to communicate the location of mines using keywords. The Americans did the same thing.

In the present, Hauser has gone through some of Lucy's old records, finding a note with particular words circled. He realizes they are locations throughout the city that might be the spot of the final bomb that has yet to be discovered. Meanwhile, the city has received a ransom note for a specific amount of money in exchange for the sites of the new bombs. Hauser advises Rebecca to cross reference her locations with words he's discovered in Lucy's notes. They narrow down an elementary school that is conveniently close to Diego's comic shop, but the bomb squad finds nothing. Hauser goes to another beach location where he finds Petty digging.

Hauser steps on and activates a mine, so Petty pulls his gun and advises him not to move. That night at the school, Diego and Rebecca spy Petty planting his explosives. She cuffs him and calls Hauser, only to find his phone on Petty.

Rebecca locks him up at Alcatraz and asks where Hauser is. But he wants to know how he got there. He just woke up in 2012 less than a week before, he explains. Rebecca leaves Diego with him while she finds Hauser's files and sees that Petty was his case in 1960. The circled words lead her to conclude she'll find him at the beach. Petty rants on about how important he was in Alcatraz that even the warden gave him to his lady head shrinker. Diego asks who that could be given there were no lady psychiatrists at Alcatraz. Rebecca drags them all off to find Hauser.

In 1960 the warden learns Lucy broke Petty's code with the keywords. She couldn't decipher the final bomb location but suggests the police will be able to. Beauregard compliments her, but she asks about Tommy Madsen and why he's a perfectly healthy man spending so much time in the infirmary giving blood. He advises her not to overstep herself.

Hauser is still standing where Petty left him. The bomb squad arrives to defuse it, and Rebecca learns Hauser's been searching for the final bomb all these years. They decide to just risk getting him off the mine and replacing him with one of the bomb squad guys. That works, but Petty has it rigged too tough and the guy gets blown up before he can disarm it.

Hauser goes to Petty and shoots him in the leg. He lies that the last mine went off years ago and no one died. Petty gives up the actual location and Hauser leaves.

In the final flashback Lucy stops by to see young Hauser, asking about the final bomb. He has no leads, so she offers her help, and he can start by asking her to dinner. In the present at her bedside he lets her know they found the last one. He unhooks her from her life support and takes her out, all the way to new Alcatraz where he gives her to Beauregard and tells him to fix her.

The Verdict:
There's not much to say besides what I mentioned in the intro. The episode did seem to drag, but that's the tendency right now, given all the focus comes at the end with the flashbacks. It was especially noticeable given the attempt to ramp up the tension finding the landmines. Though it's difficult to create tension when the criminals pose very little threat given the deductive powers of Diego, Rebecca and Hauser.

As far as Lucy goes, I'm wondering if her meeting with Hauser in 1960 was her first meeting, or if she was actually sent back in time to strike up a relationship with him, given she knew him in the future? Perhaps she was sent to learn the identities of the timenappers.

But seriously, Alcatraz has developed such a solid set of cliches for each episode that they can be ticked off a list with regularity. The clue of the week this time was the song and the keywords indicating the bomb locations (as well as the fortunate chance that Petty didn't change his modus operandi...but no one on Alcatraz does, apparently). There are no other locations in all of San Fransisco with those particular common words in their names? It's obvious the writers are more excited with the time travel conspiracy that they just want to throw together the criminal plot each week and get it over with, leaving it uninteresting and contrived.

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